After community outcry, the Hesperia Unified School District has rolled back its busing boundary changes implemented over the summer. But changes are still coming to busing: The district's new bus passes will become mandatory on October 1.

"Before we changed, I probably had anywhere from 200 to 300 calls a week. Since we changed the policy, I get maybe five or six," Superintendent Mark McKinney said Tuesday. "Most people that were impacted by the decision ... they now have transportation."

In an effort to save the cash-strapped district half a million dollars, the district's school board changed the minimum distance secondary students have to live from their school in order to qualify for busing, pushing back the boundaries half a mile, for 2.5 miles for middle school students and 3.5 miles for high school students. To cut down on non-qualifying students from riding the buses, and thus causing the district to rent more buses, the district also announced that mandatory bus passes would be used as well.

Parents rebelled and, at their August 25 meeting, the school board rolled back the boundary changes.

But the bus passes remain, and will be mandatory starting next month.

"We went back to the old policy, which has been in place from 1986," McKinney said. "But we're enforcing the policy, which we were not doing. ... We had been providing free busing for anywhere from a mile to two miles and letting inter-district transfers just hop on a bus."

State revenues are likely to be cut this year -- legislators have set a new record in turning in the state budget late -- and since payments for average daily student attendance makes up 73 percent of district revenues, and is an announced likely target for cuts, the HUSD is facing an estimated $5.5 million budget shortfall this year. At the September 8 school board meeting, district officials gave a similarly bleak outlook for the 2009-2010 school year as well.

"I could not really monitor my costs" under the old system, McKinney said. "We opened the doors, and anybody that was standing there hopped on."

The new/old boundaries have a little wiggle room in them.

"We have a walking distance that's three miles," McKinney said. "We've set the parameter, as the crow files, about two miles, but when you drive it as three miles. .... [But] if you're within three miles, you're getting to school some other way."

The boundaries also mean some long-term bus stops will be going away, especially on the mesa on the southeast side of town. Parents of students living there are the largest group of parents still unhappy with the changes.

"A number of the bus stops that were on the mesa will not be there, because you're clearly within three miles of the school," McKinney said. "I understand the concern about I Avenue, but I'm not sure it's even as dangerous as some of the other streets in Hesperia."

The district is continuing to try and come to some sort of accommodation with parents, however: McKinney will be meeting with parents about outstanding busing issues on Wednesday, September 17, at 6 p.m. at the HUSD learning annex at 15576 Main Street.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.